Melbourne Top 35 Pubs in Melbourne (2013)
One of our key criteria in judging pubs is showcasing live music, but the Napier have none and still got number 1. How?
By now you might realise that we are Fitzroy Football Club Supporters. But didn't they go belly up back in the 90s, I hear you ask? They might no longer exist on the field (besides B grade amateurs, who had a great season btw), but they live on in pubs such as the Napier. Not a week goes by, that we don't pull up a stool at the front bar, have a cosy pint and listen to the locals talk about the good old days. Stories like how Fitzroy's FC Best & Fairest in 1996 was held at the adjacent town hall, but when the winner, Martin Pyke, was announced no one could find him..until someone checked the pub. The food here has also entered folklore with people travelling as far as interstate just to sample their behemoth Bogan Burger. We enjoy the parma with kangaroo on top as well and in fact this in our top 3 parmas. An intimate dining area, put together with a beer hall type vibe in the open fire place side room, simply makes this a great local pub.
Beer: Has a variety of craft beers from around Australia. We specially like the Moo Brew and those from Bridge Road Brewers. Yum.
Food: Incredibly well portioned pub grub. See menu here.
Beer garden: Has a neat one on the side which has a retractable cover when it gets wet. We like sitting on the tables on the footpath though, looking towards the majestic Fitzroy Town Hall, one of the best buildings in Melbourne.
First Date Place: 10/10 - If they love the place, you should love them.
Certainly one of the most oddly shaped pubs in Melbourne (a former post office that became a pub in the late 90s), over the past few years this local watering hole seems to be doing everything right. It only has a few taps, but the selection is impressive with one-off guest kegs (at very reasonable prices) doing the rounds and their monthly Brew Club nights is great value for money. The food is better than the average fare (go the pie) with seasonal specials, and sitting at the pointy end of the building on grandma chairs as the suns seeps in is one of the city's great pleasures. The tiny bar is made for "stooling up" and the beer garden resembles a university student's backyard with an assortment of beards and babies. A small place, that holds a big place in our lives.
Beer garden: We love this one. Ideal for a weekend arvo when the bands begin to play.
Music: Has tunes throughout the week, usually in the beer garden. Rockabilly/blues type stuff. Or should I call it "Fitzroy-a-billy"
Beer: In recent times has made a real effort to get interesting craft beer on taps. Often asks their facebook friends what would they like next. Big tick.
Food: Hearty pub grub. Get the table at the pointy end.
Specials: Some tasty ones. See here.
Firstly it must be said that we still love the Rose. It’s still our GO-TO footy pub and trivia night, and when I have to host a business meeting (at least once a decade), I’ll do it in the side room. Kicking the ball on the street is another great tradition for many of us locals. For extra reason to why we love it, just read this blog when we learnt it was for sale last year.
New owners have made some valid changes with an increased craft beer presence, more food daily specials, and plans to expand the restaurant upstairs. All good!
The Rose drops from number 1 last year for a simple reason though; the food just isn’t the same. The size of the iconic Mixed Grill has reduced at least 30% and the on the last two occasions I had the Roast of the Day recently, the chef/kitchenhand looked almost apologetic as he brought out grizzled bits of reheated meat drowned in salty gravy. Perhaps it was a bad day those two times, but in my decades of going here, the roast was something to savour. The other dishes I’ve tasted have been good though.
It’s still a great pub, just not number one at this time. Could be next year though!
Number 4: -
Great Northern Hotel, North Carlton
Is the Great Northern the quintessential local? Picture it; a beer list that rivals the best in the state, a front bar ideal for footy and jargon, a large bistro area where quality pub grub (it won a nationwide search for the best steak a few years back) can be woofed down, and a beergarden that ranks in the top 5 in Melbourne.
Food: Steak baby steak …and the parma…hell we love the lasagne as well. See Menu here.
Beer garden: Ideal for lazy Sundays. Huge.
Beer: Has over a dozen taps, including a hard to find Hand Pump. Often gets Feral beer with is arguably Australia's best.
Specials: Some nice food ones on Monday and Tuesdays. See here.
First Date Place: 10/10 If they don't like it, make sure there isn't a 2nd date.
Number 5: TIE
The Retreat (Brunswick)
I'm a very proud Collingwood/Fitzroy boy but the Retreat is probably the only pub in Vic that I would move suburbs for, just so I could call it my local. The thing I love about the place is the nooks - the cosy front bar, ideal for tunes and propping oneself up on the bar, the bistro/bandroom where I have eaten many a parma (quality) and seen some worthy bands, and the beer garden which must rank as one of Melb's best. Every Melbourne Cup day we make the pilgrimage here for the bbq and bands, and it's one of the highlights of the year. Gold!
Beergarden: Great space and outdoor bar. Also tables on Sydney Rd offer something.
Food: We love the burger and (special board) parma. See menu here.
Beer: Got some good beers on tap. Nothing too crazy.
First Date Place: 10/10 - so many nooks to take them .
Pic from retreathotelbrunswick.com.au (Emma Jane Johnson)
Number 5: TIE
The Yarra burst on the scene earlier this year. It used to be a bit of a …how to put this nicely…dive, but new owners (including Mick Thomas from “Weddings, Parties, Anything”) have rejuvenated making it one of the best live music venues in town. It also rates highly on our Beer Garden List too, and heading there is becoming a weekly occurrence. Their kitchen also does a good job in creating some different pub meal options - Rabbit terrine, some Eggplant Pie and some Apricot Chicken are this weeks specials. Heading here after the Community Cup was one of the best days of the year! A great option for a lazy sunday.
We like it so much this is the leading contender to host our 10th Birthday next year.
The Labour in Vain Hotel (Fitzroy)
In a way, the Labour in Vain is the new kid on the block. Despite opening in the 1850s, from 1926 to 1998 it was a shop, so for many alive today, the Vain is only 15 years old. What we love about the place is the music…scratch that…the free music that occurs at 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. It's when the pool table on wheels is moved, the speakers are plugged in, and local acts get the place jumping. Rock royalty such as JVG Guitar Method and Spinal Tap look-a-like Large Number 12s are regular acts and have a firm following. Another aspect to why we love it is the owners. The Leopoldseder family obviously enjoy what they do. From the patriarch, Roman, who regularly jumps behind the drums to play a few sets, to his two daughters who run a tight ship behind the bar..it has a type of old country pub feel.
BEER: Has Coopers Dark which we love.
BEER GARDEN: Great one on the roof.
MUSIC: 5 times a week.
FOOD: No food, though recently there was a bbq on the roof for the weekends. Let' hope this continues in the future.
FIRST DATE PLACE: 10/10 - Intimate in the day, rocking at night. The perfect pre-dinner gig.
Number 7: TIE
The Fox Hotel (Collingwood)
I used to live 13 seconds from the Fox's front door. It was my second lounge room, my second kitchen, my second …toilet. It is unique in that it's so flexible. A beer on one's own at the bar, a party on the roof with dozens, or a candle lit dinner in the dining room with romantic intentions - all seem perfectly suited to it. Add an excellent beer list, great hearty food (go the Roast!) and a beer garden that's in my top 5 in Melbourne and you can't go wrong. I always seem to play pool really well here also, and I'm crap at pool.
Beer: Hugely impressive beer list. The taps usually promote Victorian craft beer.
Beer garden: A small outside area but a killer rooptop one that looks over the chimneys of urban Collingwood.
Food: We rate the parma and burger highly, though there are many other fancier options that are just as nice. See menu here.
Specials: We come for the 2 course Sunday lunch at least once a month. Incredible value. See specials here.
Music: Has a band or two in the front room during the week.
First Date Place: 9.5/10
The Union Hotel, Brunswick West
The Union, out in the wilderness of Brunswick West (will be 2014’s new IT suburb we bet), is the quintessential local pub. Revelers have pints of craft beer on the footpath tables, just in front of a wide open door, that looks through the table area, right to the stage, that promotes quality local music. A little front bar, is ideal for watching the footy/cricket to the right. The urban wilderness of the beer garden is a cracker as well and one of the city's most underrated. Heading here at 4pm each Sunday for some tunes, then a parma (nothing on the menu over $20), then a final pint on the footpath is one of our great pleasures.
Pic by John Torcasio (wikipedia)
A few years ago, husband and wife team (Michelle & Harry), totally revamped the place to what is now The Town Hall Hotel. The misconception here is that it is an expensive gastro-pub, however nothing could be further from the truth. In fact we go as far as saying it’s the most underrated pub in Melbourne with some cracking specials. I mean at lunch: Two courses, a glass of wine & a coffee for $35 is good value and their happy hour, $6 pints of craft beer (3pm-6pm) is as good as anywhere around town. Their bar menu hardly goes over $20 and comes from a kitchen that supports the best local ingredients from the paddock. It’s a long way from the Purple Turtle.
Beer garden: Some seating on the street
Beers: Nice selection of craft beers.
Food: Top quality fare.
Date Place: yep, you’ll be in the good books.
Pic taken from Town Hall Hotel's website.
The Tote Hotel, Collingwood.
You know those house parties that become a blur of cushioned rooms, loud tunes, sticky carpet and hand soap? Well that's the Tote. Just a few weeks ago I came here on a Sunday arvo and saw a dozen bands play in the front bar, the cobra lounge upstairs and the main band room. Myriad of styles with differing audiences all getting along in harmony. The beer garden hosted the customary free bbq which explained the mustard all over my shirt the following morning. We also come here afterwork a few times a month, because the jukebox is awesome and the front bar is old school. Everyone is crap at pool. I was overseas when the whole "Save the Tote" thing was on, but as a pretty passive person, it would have got me off the bar stool to protest in Spring St for sure. Thank you Tote.
Beer: Has a few interesting Matilda Bay drops and of course Melbourne Bitter cans are always on hand.
Bands: Of course - I'd say this is the best music pub in the country. 31 years of live music!
Specials: None that we know of.
Food: Occasionally has a bbq in the beer garden. Cheapo quality but that's how we like it.
Beer garden: We rate it. Filled with lots of characters not used to the sun.
First Date Place: Can be too loud for some, but too bad. 8/10
The Empress Hotel, North Fitzroy
One of the reasons why I'll probably always rent, is to stay close to pubs like this. A place where anybody could rock up, sit down and chill out while listening to quality local live music. Even the cheapskates who don't want to pay a cover charge and sit on the front bar and still hear the tunes. The large bistro area is ideal for large groups too.
Beer garden: Has a small one out the back, but we prefer to sit on the tables on the footpath.
Food: Real hearty pub grub. See menu here.
Beer: Has Goat and Coopers mostly.
Music: Always! One of my favs.
Specials: You know it! See here.
First Date Place: 9/10 Marry em if they like this place.
The Rainbow has been one of my staple pubs since the mid 90s. It always offered free tunes throughout the week, and their tiny front bar area made it for a lively and intimate gig. So when I learnt that new owners were taking over a few years back and then going to renovate the place, I was worried. That was until I learnt that the new owners were brothers Adam and Jason from Lambs Go Bar - one of my fav places for a beer in Fitz. They tidied up the beer garden, renovated the whole front bar, put some great beers on tap, but thankfully kept the free live music.
Beer: Great craft beers on tap and a huge bottled beer list. Join the 101 club!
Food: See menu here.
Bands: Has live bands throughout the week. Sunday arvo session good.
Specials: Got some handy food specials.
Beer garden: A spacious one with couches, plasma, pool table and direct access to the bar.
First Date: 7.5/10. Good beer, good tunes, good food.
The Tramway Hotel, Fitzroy North.
Many Saturdays were spent at the Tramway in times gone by. As a Fitzroy FC supporter (yes they still exist), I’d like nothing more than walking the 60 metres from the fwd pocket of the Fitzroy Football Ground to the pub, for a quiet few with the locals. When new owners took over, at first I was a bit concerned. From first impression the pub renovations gave it a cafe type vibe which I found hard to swallow. What WAS easy to digest though, were their premium burgers. The old Tramway never served food (the one thing that was always lacking), but these beauties were pure quality, and their chips...oh their chips. They had me at the burgers, but the beer list also went down the craft beer route which we are always fans of, and this year they have managed to get some hard to find drops as well. We also like the 4 outdoor tables on the street, where you can still see the footy ground. The horse drawn trams don’t come here anymore; but we do
Beer Garden: Streetscape tables.
Food: Great burgers.
Beer: Getting better all the time...better ...better...bettttter
Specials: Yep. Food and Beer to boot! See here!
Photo taken from http://tramwayhotel.com/
Wilde Bar, Fitzroy.
Despite Gertrude St currently being the hippest street in the city, and home to a new wave of trendy restaurants that serve dude food and clothing shops that teach French at night, Wilde Bar often goes unnoticed. Modelled on an ol' London pub, we like the dark wooden interior and candle lit assortment of tables splattered around. The beer hand pump serving 3 Ravens English Ale is also a big win, being one of our favourite beers. Upstairs is a comfy nook ideal for bands and the occasional footy game and the food is one of the most underrated in Melbourne. Having
Specials: Excellent beer at a very worthy price. See here.
Beer Garden: Street seating (tables for two to create romantic ambience perhaps).
Food: Ex-Movida chef making tasty Uk inspired food.
Pic taken by Sarah Lynch.
Number 13 (TIED)
We love the backstreet location. We love the exterior that resembles a bum bar from the 1930s. We love the beergarden that nobody would expect. But what we love the most is the comfy front bar (filled with Fitzroy FC memorabilia) where locals congregate and talk about footy and local music in equal parts. It's a special place that we need to go weekly to feel.....balanced.
Food: The Standard burger is awesome. Might go get one today actually. See it here.
Beers: Has some nice beers on tap. Bridge Rd and White Rabbit currently are on the go.
Beergarden: Often rated as the city's best.
Music: Despite the tiny stage and viewing area, the atmosphere is always good. Sundays at 7pm is the best time.
First Date Rating: The hipsters have discovered the Standard in droves. We recommend going there for lunch on a weekday for some intimate 1 on 1 time.
Has been a CDB mainstay for years now and when in the city is my number 1 goto beer/lunch place. What is impressive is that it continuously offers an assortment of tasty and sometimes one-of-a-kind parmas as well as a great range of Victorian craft beer (we like the Grand Ridge stuff which is hard to find on tap). Personally our favourite parma is the “parma-geddon”. A tasty bird topped with a chilli sauce that contains 17 ingredients, four types of chillies and takes the best part of a week to make. Now that’s love!
Photograph by Sarah Lynch
Number 14: TIE
The Royston was one of Melbourne's pioneers in providing quality Victorian craft beer to the public. In fact after 2.5 years overseas, this was the first pub I visited when I returned, as an avenue to get up to speed. Despite its out of the way location, you'll regularly find the place almost full, such is the standard of beer and food on offer. The Wednesday night trivia has to be one of the city's best and most popular as well. Note: The Mountain Goat Brewery is across the road and open on Wednesdays and Fridays afterwork.
Beers: Awesome list. 10 taps rotating including hard to find seasonals.
Food: Better than average pub grub. We especially like the parma. A dining room is good for special occasions. See menu here.
Music: Have never seen music there. Pity as it would complete the picture.
First Date: 9/10/ Quality surrounds for quality date.
Specials: Tasty ones and a new Tuesday beer night. See here.
Husband and wife team, Michael and Kim Lynch, effortlessly make every customer feel at home, with extremely hearty meals (try the breakfast rolls, though we also rate the roast very highly as well), quality Guinness, traditional craic and great drink specials. It’s our pick for the best Irish venue in the city.
Beer Garden: Comfy little nook out the back
Beer List: Guinness will do.
Food: Great hearty fare.
South Melbourne is a suburb with many pubs, though sadly most have been yuppified up and homogenised over the decades…but not the Maori Chief. Its history (1867) and "vibe" has remained true, making this a type of northern pub in the south if we can be so bold to say. It's a comfortable local with good pub grub and a space where watching sport is encouraged.
Food: Has a nice little dining area out the back (very 1950s). Usual pub fare. See here.
Beer: Has some nice bottled beer to go with the usual tap offerings.
Beergarden: Yep, one upstairs. Nice views.
First Date Rating: 7.5/10 Homely and unpretentious.
Specials: Some nice food ones through the week. See here.
The GB have hosted a lot of firsts for me. It was my first uni pub, I had my first Mountain Goat here, I won my first trivia here, and things went on in the basement they are better left unsaid. The long front bar is also one of the best in Melbourne, for just sipping a pint and staring at nothing in particular. While I'm an AFL fan, this pub isn't a footy pub, meaning it's much more chilled before and after games, unlike many others in Richmond. We also like the whole student house type furniture which make you sleep and itchy and the same time.
BEER: Love the novelty of PISS BEER (and PISS WEAK) but GB has always prided itself on introducing craft beer to the ordinary pub goer. Great list on tap.
MUSIC: Always supports local bands. Open Mic on Wednesdays is fun.
BEER GARDEN: Nice one out the back and a few tables on Church Rd for those that like to people watch.
FOOD: Has menus from neighbouring restaurants (Thai and Pizza) that deliver.
First Date Place: 9/10 Intimate, comfy, classic.
The Drunken Poet (West Melbourne)
There is a bit of graffiti in the toilet of The Drunken Poet (smallest toilet in Melbourne it has to be said) that reads "(My Surname) It's time to go home". Now since my name is somewhat rare (and Irish) I'm wondering if it was directed at me or perhaps some transient Irish backpacker. It was a big surprise at the time, and the bloke outside the door was probably wondering why I shouted "What the Hell". Whatever the case, having lived In Ireland I can say that this is the most authentic Irish drinking hole I have been to in Australia. It's small, cramped, but filled with character and characters. It also showcases some of Melbourne's best musicians with little fanfare.
Beer: Supports Victorian Craft Beer but also has Guinness and Kilkenny naturally.
Music: Has free quality performances most nights of the week.
Beergarden: Two tables out on the street looking towards Queen Vic Market.
First Date Place: 9/10 Intimate and snugly.
The Gertrude Hotel, (New Entry)
The problem with this place in the past, was that it was trying to be too many things to too many people. For example last year, they advertised heavily to come on down to watch the footy on social media. A bunch of mates did, but when we got there, they refused to turn on the volume because it might distract diners (WTF!). This year they have finally got some direction. They have stripped back the menu (still good pub fare), and brought a real focus on craft beers (they just added more taps – 16 we think in all). They have also put on some great happy hours on Thursday and Fridays. As the months get warmer, many will either use the street tables (prime hipster viewing), or the snug little rooftop space that many don’t know about. We'd love to see them put on some bands in the space upstairs in the future! Overall a worthy inclusion and an example of getting things right.
Beer Garden: Head to the roof!
Beers: An orginal list of craft beers. Often has special events.
Food: A very tasty parma.
Specials: Looks after us we food and drink specials throughout the week.
Reverence Hotel, Footscray. (New Entry)
The former owners of the Arthouse, have transported the raw sounds of angst ridden music and plonked it in the heart of Footscray. The menu is the real surprise though. Large portions of great value Mexican food (and pizzas) keep the young crowds very happy indeed. We like the pulled pork taco but there are lots of vegan options too! Tuesday is especially popular with beer/food specials. Add a few craft beers on a great horseshoe bar, and this is our top pick out West! Rock n Roll!
First Date Rating: Could be a 10/10 could be a 1/10, depending on your tastes.
Food: Better than many mexican resturants around town
Town Hall Hotel (Nth Melbourne) (2012:no. 18)
From the street, the Town Hall looks like a pub you'd find in a country town like Benalla. Though when you think about it, North Melbourne as a whole has a country style to it anyway. Entering via the front bar (funnily enough) you'll instantly feel like propping yourself at the bar, though keep walking and the dining room is also comfy. Beer garden out the back completes the picture. Musicians, students and locals are the normal clientele. No dramas, just parmas.
Beers: Some good craft beers on tap and in bottles.
Food: We love the parmas. See menu here.
Music: Has live music in the comfy front bar Thursday to Sunday. We especially recommend the ultra-casual Sunday session.
Beer Garden: Yep. Has a little one out the back. Very solid.
First Date Rating: 9/10 Just kicking goals on all fronts.
Union Club Hotel (new entry)
Another one of the great Fitzroy backstreet pubs. The beer list might be a little limited (though slowly getting better) and they don’t show bands, but the chill out factor here is huge. Three beer gardens (on the street, out the back, and on the roof) make this a warm weather beauty. We also like the food here - just good fashioned pub grub with our highlight being the Mexican Parma. The horseshoe bar is ideal for propping a pint and a paper on too!
Beer Garden: Yep two doozies and tables on the street.
Food: Simple pub grub.
First Date Factor: 7/10. Would be a 9 if not for the Offspring factor.
The Terminus, Clifton Hill/Nth Fitzroy. NEW ENTRY
In recent time the Terminus could be best described as a GOOD pub. Good food (especially the steaks), and a good beer list (the owner also owns Richmond’s Royston Hotel) was reason enough to drop by now and again when in the area. Saying that, I wouldn’t pass other Fitzroy/Collingwood pubs to go there. It just wasn’t the sort of place I’d go out of the way for. But things changed in May…After extensive renovations (they removed the drive thru bottle-0), the Craft Beer Garden was born. Adding an extra 16 taps, displaying hard to find beers and one-off collaborations they started to win us (and many other locals) over. So did the new kitchen which focuses on Vietnamese street food, ideal for beer. The noisy garden out the front at the intersection is no longer the only choice, with a new garden out the back as well. For traditionalists, the old bar hasn’t changed, but you’ll find us in the Craft Beer section every time.
Pure Pop Records - St Kilda. (NEW ENTRY)
When a solitary neighbour complained about the noise earlier in the year, Pure Pop Records had to either stop hosting live acts or build an expensive sound proofing structure…thankfully they chose the latter and with the help of social funding they reached their initial target. That's where people donated money and in turn got their name written on a brick. We love Pure Pop because it feels like a mate’s backyard. Great tunes, some tasty toasties and a solitary tap filling up pints. It’s all very intimate and ideal for Sunday afternoons chilling with tunes.
Beer Garden: Tiny one.
Food: Simple toasties named after great rock acts
Beer: Solitary tap (was Boags last time we checked)
Date Place: Probably wont be able to hear them talk when the music starts. Could be a postiive.
Grace Darling Hotel - Collingwood (2012:21)
There is no other pub in Melbourne that twists our emotions as much as the Grace Darling. You could call it a love/hate relationship because we used to love it and then we hated it for no other reason in that it changed. You see it used to be pretty grimy and old-school. That kind of place elderly gentlemen who like a beer frequent most hours. We liked it. Then it changed and the hipsters moved in. At first we refused to go there but sometimes a band we wanted to see was playing there so we went. We admitted it did have a good band room. Then we ate there. We admitted the burger was top quality. Then we found out the happy hour and basically we go there on a weekly basis. It won us over very slowly but now it's one of our "locals". Atleast once a week. kudos.
Beer Garden: Has one on the corner of peel street. Nice vantage point to watch passers by.
Food: High quality pub fare. See menu here.
Music: Lots of it. Great music venue including an intimate little basement.
First Date: 9/10 - Women really seem to love this place judging by the demographics.
Specials: Some of the best in town. See here.
The Gem (Collingwood) (2012:19)
Appropriately named, the Gem is a rockabilly type pub that many call Collingwood's real local. It's the kind of place where tattooed couples tie their sheepdogs outside and talk music inside. The small front bar is a haven for many locals looking to get in from the cold, while the backroom eating area is good for groups. It's also one of the best bars around just to prop yourself on and there is no TV to be distracted. A sound choice for people wanting to catch up.
Beer Garden: Has a few tables outside on the street popular with smokers.
Beers: Got some nice craft types rotating.
Food: Really good steak sandwiches and other interesting creations. Texas style BBQ on Sundays is the go.
Music: Puts on free live music in the front bar some days of the week. Tends to be blues, rockabilly type. Great for chilling out.
Specials: Pint specials ...read more
First Date Rating: 7.5/10 Intimate enough and the kind of music that says "I'm a local".
Woodlands Hotel, Coburg (New Entry)
The interior to the Woodlands Hotel isn’t that of your typical pub. It’s a cross between a Game of Thrones set, Alice in Wonderland prop and an old school boozer. The atrium out the back is also one of our favourite yet underrated beer gardens in town. The beer list is proudly Victorian with over 50 craft beers available in bottle and on tap, and the menu (designed by former Josie Bones chef, Rob Taylor) is made with beer in mind. Their chargrilled, slow-cooked pork rib is one my Top 10 go to dishes in town. Geez, I think I’ll go there for lunch now.
Beer Garden: A special wooden atrium out the back. Resembles a medieval Viking beer hall.
Beers: Some of Victoria’s best. Slurp Slurp.
Food: Beer food…really good beer food. Gobble Gobble.
Specials: Lots! See here!
Clyde Hotel (Carlton) (2012:22)
The Clyde Hotel is a predominately a student pub due to its proximity to Melbourne University (5 min walk). It's common to see young minds cramming in beers and parmas in between classes and the pub is the clubhouse for a few of its sports teams. That means on Thursday and Friday nights it can get pretty lively. Earlier this year the front bar was totally revamped, going for the rich wooden tones that many others employ. Though we weren't overwhelmed by this undertaking, their new specials did impress. $5 lunches which have won over us and the students judging by numbers. A very worthy abode if in the area.
Music: On Sunday arvos they have free jazz style stuff. A regular bunch of elderly types turn up and rock out.
Beer: As an interesting selection including some Matilda Bay drops on tap.
Beer Garden: A nice one out the back that looks out on the street. Student central.
First Date place: Probably not. There will be heaps of students types checking out who you brought.
Specials - Yep see here
The Sporting Club (Brunswick) (2012: 20)
Gotta love an old historic backstreet pub that has been given a bit of life by passionate owners. The Sporting Club feels a bit WWI mixed with a dash of Latino (Diego Maradona is the logo). It's the kind of all-purpose place where getting a meal, seeing a band, or necking pints in the beergarden can all be done successfully. It's what all backstreet pubs should aspire to.
Beergarden: Has two. An side alley garden and one at the back.
Food: Has pub classics as well as Spanish style offerings. See here.
Beer: 6 beers on tap including those from Thunder Road Brewery which is about 200 metres away
Music: Has gigs from local artists
Date Place: 8/10 Just an all-round comfortable, non-pretentious pub.
Specials: Great Specials throughout the week - see here
The Alehouse Project (East Brunswick) (NEW ENTRY)
There are three things that make a good beer bar. The first is obviously a good selection of beers but it’s much more than that. The beers must turn over continuously as to offer the customer a differing range. Many beer places around town seem to have the same 5 taps on forever. We really appreciate hard to find collaboration brews or rare seasonal drops. Perhaps dedicating a weekend to a certain style or event! A hand pump doesn't go astray either. Secondly the food must cater for the beers on offer. High quality produce and interesting variations of common pub meals are the go. Thirdly the dynamics of the space should facilitate communal drinking. Large wooden tables, intimate beer gardens, etc. A space that gets people talking. Thank you Alehouse for nailing all three.
Beer: Great range with rotating taps.
Food: Created to match the suds. Yum stuff.
Beer garden: One out the back under a big tree with possums.
The Quiet Man (Flemington) (2012: 25)
It's the beacon out west. Irish owned and staffed with Irish backpackers, it's a homely place that isn't afraid to get rowdy when the music starts. Apparently it was built and designed in Dublin and shipped over here. Now that's authentic. Half the place is dedicated to the bistro, while the front bar is where to congregate for sports and such. It's a great option if you find yourself out that way, especially during Spring Carnival and of course St Pat's day .
Beer: Has 12 beers on tap, including the customary Guinness and Kilkenny.
Food: Has hearty pub fare with an Irish slant. Think bangers and mash and Irish Coddle. Their signature dish is the Irish stew which comes inside of a homemade loaf of bread. It's suitably awesome for winter.
Music: Often showcases Irish "trad" music.
Beer Garden: Has two but we prefer to use the one of the street and watch the trams go by.
Specials: Yep - click above.
The John Curtin Hotel (Carlton)
A few years ago a new owner came into John Curtin with the desire to make it into one of Melbourne's best live music venues. While it often goes under the radar, the verdict is in…he succeeded (he has since left, but new owner continues the theme). A big space upstairs goes down a treat for a late night noise session and the old school front bar with its graffiti ridden toilets and dodgy booths good for necking bottles and necking…necks is what a music pub should be. We also like how when your food is ready a buzzer on your table goes off. Kinda like eating in the 1980s with the whole beeper explosion. Due to its proximity to RMIT you'll often find a student crowd there which keeps it lively. Historically, being opposite the Trades Hall, you can only imagine the deals that went down at this place.
Beergarden: Tables on Lygon St.
Food: Nice Pub Grub. Nice little dining room as well. See menu here.
Beers: Has coopers on tap that we don't go past.
Music: Free live music in the front bar a few times a week and lots of gigs upstairs.
Specials: Has a few jug specials. See here.
First Date Rating: If she/he loves music, then take them here.
Leinster Arms Hotel (Collingwood) (2012: 23)
It's a good pub all year round, but it's especially suited to the colder months, with fireplaces and little nooks dotted around the thick wooden interior. A proud Collingwood FC pub, we aren't sure about the portrait of Eddie McGuire on the wall though, as it may put some people off their food (note: they may have taken it down to appeal to the wider public). It's also common to see Mark "Chopper" Read propped up on the bar on occasion.
Food: Really good quality pub fare, however I always seem to have the Aussie Burger cos it big and tasty. Much fancier things on offer to. See menu here.
Beer Garden: A few tables are on the street, which personally is my favourite type of outdoor seating. Especially when you see others having to drive home to zone 2. Cheers.
Music: Occasionaly has blues and jazz bands. Quality.
Specials: Two five star specials on Monday and Wednesday. We love "toss the boss". See here.
First Date: On a cold winter's night, you can't go wrong. 9/10.
The All Nations Hotel, Richmond (2012: 24)
In the backstreets of Richmond, opposite a housing commission, is one of the those killer local pubs, that many never venture into. We love the horseshoe bar, where one can meet with friends over a quiet pint or perhaps go solo and read the paper. The real selling point is the kitchen with better than average pub fare available, especially the steaks. This is also a footy pub with a shuttle bus that takes patrons to and from the MCG (that has to be a first!). Good beergarden completes the picture.
Beer: Has a few taps with Cascade and Coopers. A lot of the locals enjoy the wine list.
Food: You can see the menu here. Some very tasty options. http://www.allnationshotel.com.au/pdf/Menu.pdf
Beergarden: Yep a good size one out the back.
First date rating: 7/10 - Intimate and in the know.
Specials: Nothing last time there (July).
Percy's Bar and Bistro, Carlton. (2012: Number 17)
This was a controversial pick last year, as many couldn't understand the attraction. But let me tell you a story. Last month a few of my insterstate mates wanted to meet some VFL legends, so we propped ourselves up on the bar before a big Carlton game, and lo and behold, soon after we were sharing a pot with champion players from the 1970s.
Percy's Bar and Bistro is named after 4 time premiership player and owner Peter "Percy" Jones and chances are he will be propped up at the bar. It's a throw back to the old school days, when people would sit around a horseshoe bar, drink CUB products and talk about the footy. Out the back is a very decent bistro but the cheaper meals are in the front (start at around $10-12 for meal and pot) hit the spot. Just a great little slice of history.
Beer: CUB only but bottled beer is available
Food: Good pub grub at the front and fancier offerings in the comfortable bistro
Specials: Meal and pot deals in front bar are daily
First Date Rating: 6/10 or `10/10 if they support Carlton
Number 35 -
The Palace Hotel was taken over by the Great Northern Hotel alumni earlier in the year and like its north-of-the-river counterpart, its comfy low-key surrounds won us over pretty fast. The front bar, with fox footy mind you, have the old school stools and hooks, ideal for propping one self up and talking absolute shite. The tap list showcases hard to find craft beer (big tick) including some one off collaborations that I have never seen before (which is rare for barflys like us). The bistro out the back is a little more done up, suitable for families, and offers traditional pub fare specialising in comfort food (get the lamb cutlets). The beer garden (with own entrance from street) is a session experience waiting to happen. The customary pub dog (Billy) wanders throughout the rooms, basking in attention. Overall a worthy new inclusion to our list.
Beer: Great craft beer selection.
Food: Lot of animals.
Beergarden: Love the street entrance.
Specials: YEP - Click the link above.
First Date Place: 8/10 - Enough different areas for many tastes.